I had been in the midst of a Google search for books on Style when I came upon Joseph M. William's book, Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace. The title gripped me and I immediately felt that this was going to be the definitive book on style that I have long been searching for.
If you're a writer I don't have to tell you that William's book is not about clothing styles. His book is about developing your writing style, but I'm borrowing from the title anyway because it so eloquently describes the two basic elements that one might also apply to developing a personal clothing style, namely, "Clarity and Grace."
This is the first and most important of the two key elements necessary to develop one's personal style. For years I lacked this simple (yet incredibly complex) element that was so necessary to owning my personal style.
I was easily swayed by the latest trend, a sales tag, or the insistence of a sales person that this or that article of clothing looked fabulous on me. If one was to chop off my head, there was no doubt that many of those statements were true. A particular color combination, the cut of a dress or the hem of a skirt might work harmoniously with each other and even with my body signature -- but what connection did they have with ME -- with my coloring, my energy, with the message I wanted to send to the world? Sadly too often the answer was,"none."
The Clarity of Color:
Clarity first came through discovering my best colors -- that narrowed things down considerably. While many worry about being confined to a specific color palette, the reality is that it is incredibly freeing. Does the color of terra cotta or pale lavender flooding the stores this month have anything to do with me? No it does not. I move on. Yes sometimes reluctantly, but still confident that I am not going to be lured by another gorgeous color that will sit in my closet unworn because it makes me look pasty or ill every time I put it on.
Clarity also came through three of the focus words I was given by Cathy Williams when she did my palette: Light, Refreshing, Delightful. I joked with her that I sounded like a bottle of 7-up and her eyes lit up and she replied, "exactly!" In time I came to understand that no matter what I wore, to truly connect to my inner energy and my personal vibration, the overall effect had to express one or more of those words, "Light, Refreshing, Delightful."
Clarity also came through understanding my Seasonal connection to the universe. My inherent Color Harmony relates to the color & energy of "Spring". I was very reluctant to embrace this at first because I had unknowingly been trying hard to relate to "Summer" coloring with the elegance of the "Winter" season which is, of course, the reason that none of my outfits (even when beautifully styled) really felt like me. There's been so much confusion over the past 20 + years about the value of the Seasonal Theory and so many people who have not understood its' impact have simplified it to mere numbers or archetypes or undertone, but to truly understand one's connection to your Season brings a clarity to all of one's life -- it really was this recognition of our connection to the Seasons that is the genius of Suzanne Caygill's work. I am a "Spring" and that brings an incredible clarity not just to the clothing and colors I wear, but to the entire style of my life.
Body Signature Clarity:
Clarity also came through an understanding of my complete Body Signature -- understanding how my body reacts and interacts with fabric was a critical step in coming to terms with and loving my body for what it is and recognizing that certain cuts of clothing allow others to see the beauty of my body as well. I am not just a pear or triangle shape (although the shape is part of it) but I have a long rise, a tummy, a long body etc. Understanding the types of fabric, lines of design, hem lengths and embellishments that connect to my body, my energy, my Season and my personality so that I am seen, brings incredible style clarity. I may drool over and envy a heavy bulky knit sweater but the weight of it may weigh me down or the square shape squelch my femininity so much so that the sweater's beauty and my own are equally diminished.
The Clarity of a clear Message:
It's a proven fact that our clothes speak for us, sending a message before we even open our mouths. So clarity of style comes through knowing what message you want to send. I want to be seen as relevant, approachable, stylish and harmonious. This brings such clarity for putting together outfits that will be read correctly by others.
The Clarity of Personal Expression:
The final piece of the puzzle was understanding my personal expression. Yes, I have a defined color palette, I have a particular energy, I am a Spring, I have a particular bone structure and physical realities that I must work with (not against), I know my message, but once all of those pieces are known, there's this incredible freedom to explore my personal expression through style. Do I want to be sporty or elegant or sporty-elegant? Do I favor classic clothing or a creative style? Do I align with a particular cultural expression or am I an early adopter of the latest trends? Some women will find a signature style that they will wear their entire life. Others will find that their style evolves over time with changes in lifestyle or the change of jobs or geographical location, or aging or just becoming clearer on who they are and what message they want to send to the world. My own personal expression is one of sporty to sporty-elegant but it is also one of variety -- I love change and so I am constantly exploring and playing with new expressions of style.
I also share this style clarity through the services I provide to others -- to help them get clarity on their best colors. To know their Season and understand the depth of it. To love their bodies and learn how to work with, not against them. To understand the message they want their clothing to deliver (and what message they may have been sending instead). And then to explore their personal expression of style -- what resonates most with them.
You'll have clarity of style when you finally get clear on your color harmony, your seasonal reference, your energy, your body signature, your message and your personal expression.
Are you lacking clarity when it comes to your style? Are you fed up with spending money on clothes you never wear?
In Part 2 we'll talk about the second element, "Grace", so stay tuned because yes, there's more great style advice to come.